Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Drugs and Treatment in El Cajon

El Cajon drug rehabs offer help to those suffering from addiction.

El Cajon Population 103,091 is a suburb located just 16 miles east of San Diego. ‘El Cajon’  translates to “the drawer” or “the box”, and is a valley surrounded on all sides by mountainous terrain. The median age in El Cajon in 33.1 years old. El Cajon serves a mixture of blue and white collar workers, with retail employment accounting for about 16% of the workforce in the area. With a median household income of $46,374 and a Per Capita income of $21,396,  El Cajon’s residential income is about $22,000 less than the average California household, with 24% of it’s residents living below the poverty line. Perhaps due to lower income levels and increased substance abuse, El Cajon has a higher crime rate than 69% of all towns in the state of California.

El Cajon is an ethnically diverse city, represented as 56% White, 28% Hispanic or Latino 5.6% Black or African American, 3.6% Asian, 7% Other or Mixed. English is the top language spoken at 57%, followed by Spanish at 20% and Arabic, spoken by 8.5% of the population.
If you live in El Cajon or San Diego County and have fallen victim to substance abuse don’t hesitate to seek treatment. There are enormous resources in at your disposal.

Drug Trafficking

Previously dubbed ‘The World’s Crystal Meth Capital,’ El Cajon was once home to a plethora of “one pot” home methamphetamine operations producing expensive, impure product. These days, the majority of methamphetamine is smuggled in over the Mexico border, via plane, personal auto, air, sea, and any other means imaginable. It is inexpensive, pure quality, highly addictive, and increasingly accessible. It has been reported that in 2015, California border patrol seized 45% more meth crossing the border than Arizona, New Mexico and Texas combined. Law enforcement has reported that drug traffickers have increasingly used youth to smuggle their illicit substances, with the youngest smuggler reported to be just 9 years old.

El Cajon’s proximity to Mexico and low-income population provides a prime location for Mexican Criminal Groups trafficking illicit substances such as heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines. Last April, 37 defendants were taken into custody following a year long investigation led by local law enforcement, the US Marshals Service, Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Law enforcement seized 3 pounds of Methamphetamine in that bust. Many of the criminals involved were known members of violent San Diego Street gangs. Unfortunately, that is far from the end of methamphetamine trafficking and violence in the area.

“Turf wars” and gang rivalries are the cause of much of the violence in El Cajon and greater San Diego County. The days of one pot home meth production are all but over, now the product is smuggled, controlled, and distributed largely by street gangs and Mexican criminal groups.

Commonly Abused Substances

Methamphetamine is the most commonly abused substance in El Cajon. It’s a highly addictive , cheap, and widely available stimulant that provides the user with hours of seemingly limitless energy and a feeling of euphoria.

Emergency room visits involving meth have increased 141 percent from 2010,. According to the San Diego Association of Governments, 53% of women arrested in 2015 tested positive for meth use — the highest rate in 15 years — While 40% of arrested men tested positive for the drug. Meth-related deaths have also spiked in the San Diego area to 8.2 deaths per 100,000, up from 5.6.

Heroin is another deadly yet commonly abused drug in the area. While methamphetamine is an upper, heroin has the opposite affect.

Heroin and methamphetamines lower user inhibitions and increase impulsivity. Those who abuse heroin and methamphetamine are prone to risky and criminal behavior to support their narcotic abuse habits. These behaviors may include:

  • Property Damage
  • Theft
  • Exchanging sex for money or drugs
  • Engaging in unprotected sex
  • Assault
  • Sharing needles, leading to the risk of disease such as HIV and Hepatitis

What To Look For

It can be difficult to know if someone is abusing or addicted to a substance, and/or what the substance is. Understanding risk factors, causes and signs to look for can help you take steps in seeking treatment for an individual who needs help.

Risk Factors

While substance abuse does not discriminate, there are certain factors that, when present, may put an individual at more of a risk to experiment with and become dependent on illicit substances. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Severe problem behaviors
  • Traumatic experiences, especially if resulting in PTSD
  • Impulsivity, lack of self control
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anti-social behavior
  • Psychological/Emotional problems
  • Rejection of social/community values
  • Inability to refuse peer-pressure
  • Family conflict
  • School failure
  • Favorable attitude about substance abuse
  • Substance availability
  • Chronic pain
  • Mental illness


While there is no specific cause of heroin and methamphetamine addiction, research has shown a number of possibilities may play a role. These factors may include a genetic predisposition toward addiction, environmental factors, a biological deficiency of natural endorphins, and/or underlying undiagnosed mental illness/chronic pain. Each of these causes can be aided with the help of treatment and healthcare professionals.

Signs of Abuse and Addiction

The line between heroin/methamphetamine abuse and addiction is very thin. Because of the chemical makeup of these narcotics, they are incredibly addictive, leaving the user wanting more even after just one use. Despite being on opposite sides of the “upper”/“downer” spectrum, both drugs offer the user an intense feeling of euphoria, coupled with a difficult “come down”. The painful and uncomfortable withdrawal leads the user to “chase the high”, often looking for their next fix before the effects have worn off. Some signs that may be indicators of Meth addiction include:

  • Obsessive behavior
  • Rapid talking/babbling
  • Tooth decay, also known as “meth mouth
  • Skin lesion, scabs and sores that don’t go away
  • Extreme weight-loss
  • Impulsive, risky behavior
  • The sensation that bugs are crawling under their skin
  • Loose, sagging skin
  • Hair loss

How to Tell if Someone is Using

People struggling with substance abuse and addiction tend to be very good at hiding it. Whether it be out of shame or fear of being caught, users often will lie about their behavior. Even so, there are some revealing behaviors that may indicate someone is using. They include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Shift in priorities (obsession with finding their next fix)
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Severe Itching
  • Nausea/Vomiting
  • Deceptive behavior/lying
  • Stealing/other illegal behaviors
  • Loss of interest in activities they once loved
  • Paraphernalia such as spoons, needles, lighters and pill bottles.

Co-occurring Disorders

Individuals who struggle with meth and/or heroin use often have co-occurring mental illnesses. Some common co-occurring disorders include:

Many treatment options available will help to assess and treat co-occurring illnesses as well as substance abuse. It is important to determine and treat co-occurring illnesses as they tend to play a substantial role in substance abuse.

Treatment Options

Whether you or someone you love struggles with heroin, methamphetamine, or addiction to another substance, know that there is hope and there is help. Many people have gone on to lead happy, heathy lives after treatment. We can help you find a recovery treatment option that is right for you. The most important part of any treatment is a dedication to getting and remaining sober. Keep reading to see what you can expect from substance abuse treatments.


The first step to every treatment program is to undergo an assessment or evaluation to determine if physical or psychological dependence or addiction is present. Assessments can be valuable in determining if treatment is needed, and if so, what type of treatment is most appropriate. Many self-assessments are available online, but  programs also perform assessments on site. Seeing a treatment professional in person can provide you with insights online assessments cannot.

Some questions you might be asked during the assessment phase may include:

  • Are you now using more/in larger doses than when you first started using?
  • Have you noticed your usage increasing in duration since you first started using?
  • Do you find it difficult to stop using once you begin?
  • Do you find yourself unable to feel the same effects at lower doses?
  • Do you experience withdrawals such as tiredness, insomnia, increased appetite, anxiety or depression when you stop using?
  • Have you ever had loss of interest in life, or suicidal thoughts when not using?
  • Have you ever tried to quit using, but failed?
  • Do you currently have a desire to quit?


Pre-Intake involves a deeper assessment into the individuals lifestyle, and how addiction is affecting them. Pre-intake evaluations can include questions that probe deeper into:

  • Types of substances being used
  • Length and frequency of use
  • Past treatment and recovery attempts
  • Areas of extreme stress
  • Employment and living situation
  • Close relationships and family
  • Medical conditions and co-occurring disorders (such as depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, post traumatic stress, etc)

Some facilities conduct pre-intake interviews over the phone, while others perform them in person. It is incredibly important to answer the questions asked during pre-intake honestly, as they will help healthcare professionals determine the best method of treatment for you as an individual. Research has shown that people who cooperate and have a treatment program that is tailored to their needs are more likely to stick with it, improving chances of maintaining sobriety long-term.

During this time, ask any questions you have regarding treatment costs and insurance coverage. It is also the time to ask what is allowed to bring with you to the facility, what the typical duration of treatment is, and to make travel arrangements to the facility if necessary.


During the intake process, you will meet with healthcare professionals such as a doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist, and/or a counselor or therapist. This will give intake professionals a chance to more closely examine if and how substance abuse has affected your physical health. A mental health screening may also be performed at this time, in order to diagnose or review any co-occurring disorders that may contribute to the addiction. During the intake process that you’ll be officially admitted to the substance abuse treatment program. At this time, ask any remaining clarifying questions you may have about the treatment facility, your addiction, and what will be expected of you during your enrollment. The details of your treatment will be laid out for you, as will the rules of the facility and expected length of your stay.


Regardless of the type of treatment you decide on, Detox is the first major step on the road to recovery. Detox is the process of ridding the body of toxic chemicals such as those found in narcotics. During this process, the body often goes through withdrawals, which is often categorized as having the opposite affect than the substance that was abused. For example, those who have abused methamphetamines may experience lethargy, hunger, depression and fatigue, in contrast to the extreme energy, elation, and lack of appetite they felt when they were using. Heroin users may feel sore, experience insomnia and agitation, in contrast to the euphoria and fatigue they felt when using.

One of the main things that keeps users coming back to substances is the withdrawal process. Even if an addict or substance abuser wants to get clean, the process of doing so is often uncomfortable mentally and physically, and can even be painful and dangerous. It may feel like the only way to avoid the discomfort is to continue using. Relapse is a common occurrence, especially during the detox stage. The odds of relapsing are increased if the user attempts to detox on their own. It is suggested to detox under the care and supervision of a detoxification facility or supervision of a professional. Some detox clinics may administer prescriptions to aid the patient through the detox process, keeping them alert while curbing some of the more uncomfortable symptoms.

Detoxing can be done in a number of ways —at home, at a detox-only facility, or as part of a larger treatment facility. In any case, this is just one step on the long path to recovery. May addicts will relapse if they opt only for professional help (or no help) in detoxing, and don’t continue on to receive treatment.

What is withdrawal? How long does it last?


With many different types of treatment to choose from, it is important to understand the pros and cons of each to make an educated decision on what they right kind of treatment is for you. Treatment programs can be broadly categorized into 2 types —Inpatient and Outpatient. Inpatient treatment can be further broken down into 2 subtypes — RTC and PHP



Residential Treatment Centers are the most intensive, and arguably most successful forms of substance abuse treatment. These are live-in facilities that offer round-the-clock care. Patients are not permitted to leave the premises unsupervised by staff, and contact with the outside world is limited. This allows the patient to focus solely on recovery without influence from friends, family, or stressors that may lead to relapse. While enrolled in a Residential Treatment Center, the patient may take part in group and individual therapy, including 12 step programs. There may also be specialized therapy for co-occurring illnesses, family or relationship counseling, psychiatric visits, spiritual sessions, and physical exercise. Each facility is different, and the length of time one may expect to stay in an RTC varies from around 30 days to 12 months.



Partial Hospitalization Programs are similar to Residential Treatment Centers in that they are intensive treatments where the patient will spend most of their time. The main difference between these two forms of inpatient treatment is that the patient does not spend the night in a PHP facility, but rather goes home at night to sleep and is expected back at the facility in the morning. This type of facility provides a safe, structured environment, while still allowing the patient to maintain independence and accountability in their communities. A PHP is a good option for those who have familial obligations and/or supportive home environments, or are transitioning from a more intensive Residential Treatment Center.

Inpatient programs have proven to be the most successful form of treatment, but aren’t available or practical for everyone. Outpatient services are another great choice for those looking to get sober. Whatever form of treatment you decide on will likely involve several hours of group and/or individual therapy per day, and may also encourage physical exercise, spiritual programs, and social or educational programs.


Just as inpatient treatment comes in different forms, so does Outpatient Treatment. Outpatient is known to be a more lax approach to substance abuse treatment, in that it does not involve round-the-clock supervision. Because of this, the patient must have the ability to hold themselves accountable and be diligent in their own recovery. Outpatient treatments offer more freedom than inpatient treatments, but as such they can be less successful at maintaining recovery and see a higher relapse rate. Outpatient programs are a good option for those who cannot enroll in inpatient programs for any number of reasons, perhaps due to job or family obligations, or lack of insurance/funds. Outpatient programs offer the freedom to continue with ones day-to-day, while still providing the support of consistent group and individual therapy. Those who participate in outpatient programs should have a strong desire to kick their addiction, as there is less supervision from treatment professionals, and more influence from the outside world present. Outpatient programs can also be an option for those seeking additional therapy after completing an inpatient program.


Intensive Outpatient Programs offer the support of inpatient therapy, but with more freedom and less of a time commitment. Typical outpatient programs consist of 10-12 hours of group and individual therapy per week — a few hours per day, a few days a week. This allows the individual to continue their daily obligations with minimal interruption, attending school or work during the day and attending therapy in the mornings or at night as is appropriate. IOP programs work best when the patient has already attended a detox facility, and can be implemented on its own, or as continuing  aftercare for those who have already attended an RTC or PHP.

Should I choose inpatient or outpatient?


Recovery is a life-long process that doesn’t end with detox or treatment. Research has shown that those who implement a continuing aftercare plan following treatment have a better chance at remaining sober and avoiding relapse situations. These programs often  include 12-Step programs, support groups, individual or group counseling and sober living environments. Like substance abuse treatment programs, there is no one-size-fits-all aftercare program. Some aftercare programs are designed to have a start and end date, while others are life-long plans. The purpose of aftercare is the same for everyone though — to help maintain sobriety even as the temptations to relapse may occur.

What happens after discharge?


Sober Living Homes or “Halfway Houses” are one more way to prevent relapse after treatment is complete. Sober living communities are composed of recovering addicts all working to maintain sobriety in their daily lives. Living in a drug-free environment provides support for each member of the sober living home, while establishing a sense of community and camaraderie. Each member can relate to the struggles and successes of addiction recovery, providing support and accountability for other members.  Each sober living environment is different. Some sober living homes are staffed, while other rely on it’s members to maintain accountability. Most sober communities have rules and guidelines in place to prevent relapse and ensure the continued drug-free lifestyle of it’s residents. Rules may include check-ins, mandatory meetings, random drug tests, and/or curfews. Some sober living homes require it’s residents to be employed, pay rent, complete chores around the house, and contribute to the community in other ways.

Sober living homes are a good option when it comes to transitioning back into day-to-day life after treatment. Some find that it helps to reduce the temptation to return to old habits that may lead to relapse. Having others around that are also in the addiction recovery process can be helpful for those who may otherwise be tempted to return to friends, family members, or living situations that may tempt them to use again.

If you or someone you know is ready to begin the journey to a sober life, please call us today.